The Legend-News

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Monday, 2000 September 11 : Volume 3, Number 33

What We Got Here

In this edition, we tell you where you can find those C.W. songs that aren't on CD; get more answers from Bill Fries in Re: McCall; the remainder of Convoy 2000, Day One; T A Chafin's visit to Los Angeles and his other Brush With Greatness™; and of course the Song A’ Th’ Week.


C.W. That's Not On CD

Do you own the audio CDs of C.W. McCall's Greatest Hits and The Best Of C.W. McCall and The Real McCall: An American Storyteller? If you don't, then you should go right this minute and buy them. Now. Go to Amazon.com or some other record retailer and buy them. [Except for The Real McCall, which is only available from American Gramaphone.] Bill and Chip will get a few pennies from your purchase. Not much, but it counts. And they deserve to get paid for their work.

[Check out the Emporium for more information on those CDs. — Ed.]

Now I could (once again) berate Polgram for not re-releasing the Original Six albums, and I could rant about how record companies control the means of distribution and thereby limit your access to out-of-print songs, but I won't. On the other hand, if there are C.W. songs that you've never heard, and those songs aren't on a CD, then Jim Fisher has set up a web site that will interest you. He's creating an archive of MP3 files of C.W. McCall songs, but he's only posting the songs that are not available on CD. Yeah, it's still legally iffy (that's the Latin term), but maybe one day you'll be able to buy "official" copies of these songs.

If you can, buy the old vinyl LPs. But if there's a C.W. song that you can't hear because it's not on your CDs and you don't have the LPs, this is the place to look.


Re: McCall

The Short Story: Bill Fries is the real C.W. McCall. In 1972, while working at an Omaha advertising agency, he wrote the words and Chip Davis composed the music for a series of television commercials for Old Home Bread. The star of the commercials was a trucker named C.W. McCall. Assuming the persona of the fictional C.W., Bill and Chip recorded six albums of music and toured the country in the mid-1970s. Bill is now retired and living in Ouray, Colorado.

Got a question for Bill? Send it to cw@cw-mccall.com.

Q. Have you noticed any resurgence in your popularity when your songs appear on television, such as in William Shatner's commercial for PriceLine.com in which he desecrates "Convoy"?

A. No. But the royalty was especially nice.

Q. You've been photographed in poses with 18-wheelers; but have you ever actually driven one, even briefly?

A. Yes. The occasion was a "truck roadeo" in 1976. I was invited to drive a Peterbilt tractor with all the goodies. A great experience. The power was awesome.

Q. Does the song "Mountains on My Mind" (from Black Bear Road) reflect the way that you felt about your sudden fame, and the touring that you did?

A. Yes. I wrote "Mountains on My Mind" on a New York to L.A. flight. The plane flew right over Ouray, Colorado, and as I looked down on my favorite place in the whole world, I thought about how we all must do certain things in our lives that we really don't want to do.

Q. The theme in several of your songs is our destruction of the natural environment ("Glenwood Canyon", "There Won't Be No Country Music", "Silver Iodide Blues"). Do you think that we've made any progress in recognizing our mistakes and correcting them?

A. Oh, I suppose so, but the "sea of pavement" continues to wash over us. That, of course, is the price we pay for the population explosion.

Q. Do you use a CB radio when you travel? If so, does anyone believe you when you tell them that you're the Rubber Duck?

A. Not any more.

Q. Who was the inspiration for the character of the waitress Mavis Davis in the song "Audubon"?

A. A composite of all the "bag-fulla-bobcats" I've ever known or observed.

For more Q&A with Bill, see the Re: McCall archives.


Convoy 2000: Day One (Part Two)

Tuesday, 6 June 2000
08:08 PDT and we're off. The day was warming up fast, and we were heading for the desert. You might think of Southern California as being a nice place to visit, but head east past San Berdoo and you're hitting the scrub. Mountains, sand, and not much of anything except off-ramps from there to Phoenix.

The only interesting site was the wind farm east of Indio. A few hundred white windminds were on the hillsides through the pass, generating electric power for the area. I would have taken a picture, but driving one-handed at 65 miles per hour didn't seem like a very good idea.

A small note about most of this trip, a.k.a. Convoy 2000. We don't have a lot of pictures, because to take pictures we'd need to stop and if we stopped we'd get behind schedule. Yes, there was some over-estimation in our schedule; we couldn't predict the weather or the traffic, and we might need a buffer to make our stops on time. Who knew if some fool would decide to play bumper cars or if the road construction backed up everyone for an hour? So we did what needed to be done, and that was drive as much as possible.

Another factor were the time zones. In Skywalker's first itinerary, he'd had us on the road from about 8 A.M. to 8 P.M., which was reasonable. But then he realized that since we'd be travelling west-to-east, we'd be adding another hour to each day when we crossed a time zone. California to Arizona wasn't a problem, because they're both in the same time zone (Arizona is really in the Mountain zone, but they don't observer Daylight Saving Time). But cross into New Mexico, and we're suddenly an hour later. Halfway through the Texas panhandle, and there goes another hour. At South Bend, Indiana there's the Eastern zone. Three of our days just got an hour longer.

10:26, eastbound on I-10. Entering Arizona.

11:48, lunch stop in Tonopah, AZ, west of Phoenix. My "Anti-Lock Brakes" light was on, yet another effect of the failing generator and battery problem that I had. If you're in Tonopah, stop and Joe & Alice's Restaurant. A nice place. 13:00 and we're back on the road.

An hour later we were northbound on I-17 through Phoenix. The traffic was incredible. Here in the Chicago and northwest Indiana area, I'm accustomed to heavy traffic that doesn't move. But here in Phoenix, the road is packed but the cars are moving at least 50 miles per hour. It was like a low-speed Indy 500 out there as the drivers fought for positions. The traffic decreased the further north we went; but unlike the trip West there was never a time when we didn't have a car or two in front or in our rear-view mirrors.

From Camp Verde up to Flagstaff is "Seventeen Mile Hell", so-called because it's a long, slow uphill climb into the mountains. For the second time in the life of my Saturn I had to occasionally disable the air conditioning compressor, set the interior temperature to high, and open the windows. The red zone on the temperature gauge was becoming a familiar sight. And if I was having cooling problems, just imagine what Skywalker was experiencing, because he had no cooling air to start. The effects of the climb were noticeable, for sometimes he needed — needed? He had no choice! — to slow down if he was to get enough power to move uphill. Snoopy, in his almost-new rental Pontiac, wasn't complaining at all.

We were starting to get more attention from the truckers passing us, and the ones that we passed. Channel 13 was usually empty except for our chit-chat, but once in while there'd be a "What's Convoy 2000?" Skywalker usually explained the event to them, and I could imagine some of those truckers shaking their heads and mumbling "crazy four-wheelers!".

(The story continues after T A's L.A. adventure.)

T A From LV To LA (Part Two)

After the security droids had bounced T A from The Star Trek Experience, he headed out to LaLa Land to met a Famous Fan of Filmland...

Los Angeles (5 June 2000)

However, I had one more appointment to make, one more promise to keep. Some "Crispy Critters" out there might be familiar with the name Forrest J. Ackerman. If so, skip the rest of this paragraph. Forrest is something of a legend in the science fiction, horror, and fantasy community. He created the first magazine dedicated to the genre: Famous Monsters of Filmland. He met and knew the great and near great: writers, directors, actors, producers, stunt men, make-up artists, you name it. He was even the first human on the planet to coin the expression "sci-fi". However, his greatest accomplishment is that he's a collector. If you've ever seen a science fiction, horror, or fantasy film, odds are he has something from it. His home is a living, breathing, and growing tribute to this genre is all of its forms.

So what does this have to do with my driving to California? Very simple: I know the location of the house from The Blair Witch Project. It's not far from where I live, in fact. After the movie came out I went to the house and saw that the handprints which were on the walls in the movie were still there, intact. However, a couple of weeks later I heard a news story about how the house had become a hangout for kids and that they were tearing handprints off the wall, thereby destroying them as the 150 year old plaster was extremely fragile. So a friend of mine and I went out there one night and removed some of the handprints in an almost entire preserved state. It's a good thing that we did as I have gone back out there since and there is not one left where there were over 100 to start. You can see the remains of them lying on the floor where people tore them out of the walls and they just broke apart from age.

As for the handprints my friend and I removed, after preserving them in such a way that they will remain intact for 100 years or more, we have donated a number of them to various charities where they will help make money for them. However, we decided that, should the opportunity ever present itself, we would donate one to the "Forrest J. Ackermuseum" which we both considered the premiere collection of this genre's history. Then Convoy 2000 came about. I had contacted Mr. Ackerman, told him what we wanted to donate, and he said, "I'd be very happy to accept that into the collection." So I was heading to LA to meet my second living legend of the trip.

I got to Forrest's home at about 4 in the afternoon. He welcomed me warmly and showed me into his living room. I was stunned from the second he opened the front door. Every surface of the house - walls, shelves, ceiling, even the inside of the front door - was covered by paintings and props and pictures and whatnot. Paintings which had been pulp covers, latex appliances, autographed photos, magazines, books... It was like walking through the mind of the world's greatest science fiction fan.

Anyway, we talked for a few minutes about the drive and other things, then I presented him with the preserved handprint and all authenticating documentation. I explained it's somewhat dubious history. He found it amusing and said it would not be the first item he ever received with a "questionable background".

He then gave me a tour of the house that still makes me reel in wonder, even now. The props and costumes, the books and magazines, just the history I was exposed to in that house was almost too much to handle. Copies of pulp magazines I had only ever read about. Props and posters from movies that I have heard of but no remaining copies exist. Movie props that would be considered too priceless to auction: the original King Kong puppet, for example. I had to walk through the place with my hands in my pockets, as the urge to touch many of these was just too strong.

Anyway, after the tour he gave me several autographed photos and books (and one I agreed to get autographed for him, as I knew the author) and I found it was time for me to go. This visit moved me as much as the visit with Bill Fries. I was approaching a seriously overloaded state.

I headed further West until I reached the ocean. I parked, went down to the water, communed with the Pacific for about 30 seconds, then headed back to my car and drove East about the time the sun was setting. I may have been "headin' for bear on I-one-oh" but I never saw one. I found the Wildwood rest area about 90 minutes later, went and got dinner at a drive-through, and found a nearby motel. I made arrangements with the owner to wake me at about 0645 the next morning in case my alarm didn't do the job and then I settled down for the night, waiting for the 6th of June to arrive.

— T A Chafin

(Back again?)

Quarter after four and we're eastbound on I-15 through Flagstaff. The scenery has changed because we're now on a plateau in the mountains. The hot desert air is south of here; evergreens cover the hillsides and the outside temperature is a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

4:50 and we stopped in Winslow. I would have stood on a corner and looked for flatbed Fords, but there wasn't time. We started out again at 6:12 on the final leg to our day's destination of Gallup, New Mexico. We made Gallup 120 miles later, just as the sun was disappearing on the horizon. We're now in the Mountain time zone.

We found the TA Travel Center and checked into the Howard Johnson Express lodge on the side and hauled our necessities inside. I made a call home and went to Skywalker's room where I checked my e-mail. Nothing interesting, so I retired back to my room and practiced a little on the guitar then hit the sack.

Little did I know what the morrow would bring...

Next: Dead Metro In The Middle Of The Lot, and Convoy Of One


Song A’ Th’ Week

Continuing the Fries/Davis compositions from A to Z...

Summer's over in the high country. Bill told me that an aspen leaf fell on him last week.

Columbine
(C.W. McCall, Bill Fries, Chip Davis)
From the album Wilderness

She was born in the brief mountain springtime
Blue in the late mountain snow
And she grew in the sunlight of summer
But she knew when the aspen turned gold
That she had grown old

Blue columbine

[Chorus]
Columbine, columbine
Blue in the Rockies
Will I miss you, while you were away?
Will I see you next summer, wild on the mountain?
Will you be there, when I pass your way?

She was there in the brief mountain springtime
Blue in the late mountain snow
And we lived in the sunlight of summer
But I knew when the aspen turned gold
That I had grown old

[Chorus]
Columbine, columbine
Blue in the Rockies
Will you miss me, when I've gone away?
Will I see you next summer, wild on the mountain?
Will you be there, when I pass your way?

Columbine, columbine
Blue in the Rockies
Will you miss me, when I've gone away?


"Columbine" was rerecorded for the album The Real McCall: An American Storyteller.